Bob Dunning

Bob Dunning: It’s not much, but it’s better than sludge

By From page A2 | November 11, 2012

There was a day when I would routinely toss aside those “Class Action Settlement” notices that come in the mail.

You know, those deals where some manufacturer forgot to include batteries in your Christmas toy and you’re entitled to “up to 35 cents per battery” if you’re willing to “join” the settlement group and sign away your rights to sue the creeps on your own.

Then one day I received a letter from the “Oil Sludge Settlement Fund” that I read only because I wondered how on earth I got on this mailing list, given that I’ve yet to drill for oil in my East Davis backyard.

But, just as I was about to toss it in the trash, I noticed that my 10-year-old vehicle was among those “covered” by the settlement and I was eligible for up to 100 percent reimbursement for oil related car repairs if I could prove I had used the oil the manufacturer recommended.

Given that I had indeed had such problems with the car in question, I read on. And, miracle of miracles, I was able to produce both repair bills and evidence of oil changes that seemed to fit exactly what the Oil Sludge Fund Settlement Administrator was demanding in terms of documentation.

I wondered if the Oil Sludge Administrator wore coveralls to work to avoid getting the black sticky stuff all over his dress shirt, but when he sent me a fat check to cover all my repair bills for the time period in question, I didn’t care if he signed it with oil-stained fingers or not.

Suddenly, class-action suits didn’t seem like such a waste of time after all.

So it was with visions of dollar bills dancing in my head that I opened the recent letter from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California that contained seven full pages concerning the “Notice of Proposed Class Action Settlement and Hearing to Chase Credit Cardholders.”

Not being a wallet carrier, I had to check a favorite dresser drawer to see if I had a Chase credit card rattling around in there. Indeed I did. Bingo, jackpot, drinks all around.

“This notice summarizes your rights under the proposed Settlement of a class action lawsuit, as described below,” the court begins. “You are eligible to receive a payment if you are a member of the Class as set forth below.”

If you’ll please tell me the date the check will arrive, I’ll call Union Bank and tell them to open the vault. It’s always good to give them a heads-up when I have a big deposit coming in.

“This lawsuit concerns promotional loan offers that some Chase credit cardholders accepted, whereby the loan was subject to a fixed interest rate until the loan balance was paid off in full,” the court goes on.

“In November 2008 and June 2009, Chase sent some of these cardholders a ‘Change in Terms’ notice, raising their minimum monthly payment from 2 percent to 5 percent of their outstanding account balance and, in some cases, applying a $10 monthly fee to their account.”

Those dirty dogs. I remember it well. The kids still refer to that period as “The year without Christmas.”

“Plaintiffs and Chase have agreed to a settlement to resolve this lawsuit.”

Wait a minute while I wipe the oil sludge off my hands.

“If the Settlement is approved and becomes final, Chase will pay One Hundred Million Dollars ($100,000,000.00) into a Settlement Fund.”

Honey, grab the kids. We’re going to Disneyland.

“Class Counsel will ask the Court to award them up to 25 percent of the Settlement Fund ($25,000,000.00) for their attorneys’ fees.”

Fair enough. That still leaves me $75,000,000.00, which is way more zeroes than I’ve ever seen on a check before.

“Each Class Member’s share will be comprised of a $25.00 base payment, plus an additional payment intended to give the most compensation to those Class Members most affected by the Change in Terms.”

Now wait a minute, I’m getting 25 bucks and the attorneys are getting $25 million?

“The Court will hold a ‘Fairness Hearing’ on November 16, 2012, at 9:00 a.m. at the United States District Court, Northern District of California, 450 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco, California, Courtroom 7, 19th Floor.”

Neither rain nor sleet nor snow nor oil sludge will keep me from attending.

— Reach Bob Dunning at [email protected]

Bob Dunning

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